The Scottish Highlands, usually referred to as simply ‘the Highlands’, is a stunning region that covers an area that sprawls across the northernmost part of Scotland, defined by the Highland Boundary Fault which arcs its way from Helensburgh in the southwest to Stonehaven on the east coast.
The geography of the Highlands comprises a rugged and dramatic landscape which is home to some of the highest mountains in the British Isles, including Ben Nevis, the highest peak of all, which stands an incredible 4,411 feet above sea level.
The Highlands are also characterized by deep valleys known as glens and expansive lochs that were carved by the last ice age, including the world-famous Loch Ness. The region’s coastline is equally breathtaking thanks to a combination of sheer cliffs, sandy beaches, and quaint coastal villages.
In terms of flora and fauna, the Highlands have a diverse ecosystem. Vast areas of heather-covered moorland are interspersed with ancient Caledonian pine forests that are home to a variety of wildlife from red deer to golden eagles, while the coastal waters are home to otters, dolphins, and whales.
For those who love outdoor activities, the region provides ample opportunities for hiking, climbing, and cycling, from the Great Glen Way (a 79-mile long-distance route that stretches from Fort William to Inverness) to the North Coast 500, a 516-mile scenic route around the northern coast of the Highlands.
The iconic Eilean Donan Castle, dramatically positioned on a small tidal island overlooking lochs Alsh, Duich, and Long, is one of the most photographed spots in Scotland, while the Culloden Battlefield – where the last battle of the Jacobite uprising took place in 1746 – offers a poignant reminder of Scotland’s turbulent past.
Nature enthusiasts, meanwhile, will love exploring the Cairngorms National Park which is famed for its snow-capped mountains, sparkling lochs, and vast forests, while sightseers will fall in love with Glenfinnan which features a viaduct that carries the famous ‘Harry Potter’ Jacobite steam train on its journey from Fort William to Mallaig in North Morar.
The Highlands also offer a taste of traditional Scottish culture. Visitors can explore quaint villages like Ullapool, sample traditional Scottish food like haggis and shortbread, and perhaps even take part in a traditional ceilidh, a social event with Scottish folk music and dancing.
Find places to visit and things to do in the Scottish Highlands with these visitor guides.
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